Typically, I’m all about that “new year, new you” mentality. There’s no better time to start fresh than the advent of a new calendar year, where positivity is flowing and anything seems possible. This year though, something about making resolutions and big promises to eat healthier and be neater just feels kind of… overwhelming? Just three weeks into January, and honestly, things have already been pretty eventful.
Still, I didn’t want to completely lose out on making 2021 feel fresh and full of potential, especially when it comes to ensuring my home feels like a place that is happy, serene, and full of joy. The solution? I tapped some of my favorite pros to bring you 21 smart, easy, and simple ways to refresh your space — and your mentality — for 2021. Let’s forget the pressure of making it the best year yet but embrace the idea of good enough instead.
1. Swap out your lightbulbs
Overhead lighting is one of those sneaky swaps that can make all the difference in your home and mood. When my husband and I first moved into our new house, we were living with the bulbs the previous owner left behind (let’s be honest, when you move into a 200-year-old house, bulbs are not usually the first fix on the list). I couldn’t figure out why the space looked so harsh and un-homey; I knew it had to be more than the fact that we were still living among boxes.
Turns out, the fix was easy. We switched the majority of our light bulbs to Philips Hue smart bulbs, which allows us to change up the color of our lighting using an app. Through playing around with our bulbs, I found I prefer the look of 3000 Kelvins, which give our space a warm glow and instantly made me feel more comfortable.
2. Choose a signature scent for your home
“Now that our homes have become our everything — our gym, our bar, our sanctuary — I think it’s important to make sure your space empowers you rather than makes you feel confined. Scent is the strongest trigger of memory and emotion, so it’s an easy way to boost your mood and create different vibes and feel-good moments in your everyday life at home. I’ve been calling this concept ‘interiential (a combination of interiors and experiential)’; it’s part of the art of living well, manifesting little moments of joy for yourself in your day-to-day, and habituating those healthy rituals as part of your self-care.
If you’ve got some serious career goals ahead of you, I recommend lighting up our champagne-infused Chandelier candle to sparkle your way into celebrating your next promotion — you can keep it burning on your desk while you work! Likewise, if you’re having trouble sticking to a regular sleep cycle, the smoky embers and incense of Kindling are the perfect complement for a new and improved wind-down routine. Cozy up with that book you’ve been meaning to read and let it help you relax at night.” —Abigail Cook Stone, co-Founder and CEO of Otherland candles
3. Add architectural interest
“To add visual interest in your home where there may not be any, try incorporating an architectural antique for instant character and coziness. I love bare wood antiques especially. We have a salvaged fireplace mantel that has been styled everywhere from my daughter’s bedroom to our hallway.” —Angela Wheeler, interior designer and owner of Angela Wheeler Design
4. Mockup some new inspo
Craving a change but aren’t sure where to start? Play around with a design mood board program like Spoak before making any big moves. You can use this cheap genius online tool to create living renderings of your space with your furniture picks and palettes while learning the ins-and-outs of design along the way. Prefer things to be a little more lo-fi? Copy blogger Athena Calderone’s stylish DIY pinboard project, which she created with home center materials (pieces of Homasote, burlap, white paint) and is shown above.
5. “Write” your home a (mental) thank you note
“Set aside time to ground yourself in your space each morning. Put on a timer for five minutes to just breathe deeply and focus on the subtle sounds in your space. Do you hear birds chirping outside? A soft breeze hitting your windows? Notice the sensations associated with your space, and as you breathe, focus on gratitude for your home and all that surrounds you.” —Amanda Huggins, anxiety and wellness coach
6. Declutter and donate
“I know the beginning of the year is a popular time to declutter, but this year I purged even more than usual when I realized I only wore five of the 28 lipsticks that I owned. There are a lot of people in need this year, so bonus points if you donate to a church, food pantry, or another organization.” —Dr. Ijeoma Kola, lifestyle blogger and public health researcher
7. Prepare for anything
“Having supplies and food ready for an unexpected disaster is in the back of all our minds, so why not put yourself at ease and be ready for the unexpected in as stylish of a way as possible? We decided to tie a bow on all the apocalyptic craziness of 2020 by gifting our clients JUDY disaster preparedness kits, which include everything from glow sticks and emergency blankets to energy bars.” —Emilie Munroe, interior designer and owner of Studio Munroe
8. Improve your indoor air quality
“Plants improve our mental outlook by providing gezellig, a Dutch word meaning a feeling of coziness, comfort, and relaxation, and giving us a sense of wellbeing. In fact, a Japanese study that explores Shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”) concluded that spending time around nature lowers stress levels, reduces blood pressure, and has an overall relaxing effect on the body. Interactions with your houseplants can have the same relaxing and stress-reducing effects, plus they improve the quality of air in a space. Placing even just a few around the most-used spaces in your home can increase oxygen levels and purify the air.” —Joyce Mast, Bloomscape’s Plant Mom
9. Sign up for a monthly decor surprise
Listen, there’s no shame in giving yourself something to look forward to at the end of each month. Think beyond the typical beauty or book box and instead subscribe to a service that periodically sends a mini home upgrade right to your doorstep. Habitation Box is designer-curated, while GlobeIn delivers artisan goods from around the world monthly, and Norse Boxes compiles the best of trendy Scandinavian design. Translation: There’s something out there no matter what your decor vibe is, so go ahead and treat yourself.
10. Paint on a mood-boosting hue
“There’s no denying that 2020 was a hard year for everybody. With so many people spending increasing amounts of time at home, it’s more important now than ever to create a space that lifts your spirits and keeps the serotonin pumping. Nothing can do this more quickly than the color on your walls. Paint is the simplest and easiest way to boost the mood of your space and create an environment that totally reflects who you are and what you want your home to be. If you’ve been feeling especially lonely these past few months, consider one of our brand new mood-lifting shades! Meet Cute is a romantic, rosy paint color that can be used in any room of your house that needs cheering up, and our slightly sunny yet perfectly subdued Good as Gold is a mellow mustard that’s sure to make a statement.” —Nicole Gibbons, interior designer and founder of Clare Paint
11. Cleanse your space
“While ‘smudging’ (or the act of burning sage) has been popularized in recent years, as a non-native person, I prefer to use lavender, rosemary, or cedar as a culturally-appropriate alternative to cleansing my space. As you allow the smoke of your burn to waft through your space, visualize any negative energy releasing as the smoke dissipates into the air and out of your (open) windows. I love this as a morning practice to set a clear tone and intention for the week, month, or year ahead.” —Amanda Huggins, anxiety and wellness coach
12. Let go of what’s unnecessary
“As you enter this year, dedicate a day to considering what you need to let go of in your home. Sometimes we fill our spaces with memories or objects that are rooted in nostalgia, but if we’re aiming for safety and security in our homes, we need to reevaluate if what we are holding onto is triggering and brings forth unwanted memories or emotions. Does it make you think about that horrible break up? That argument you had or the ending of a friendship? Assess and ask yourself why you’re holding onto something that only brings you pain. Think of your environment as your sacred resting place and make sure it invites in the energy that you are trying to attract and maintain.” —Minaa B., LMSW, writer, wellness coach, and therapist
13. Carve out a nook
“Find a closet or small corner that you can transform into your own nook. Whether it’s for reading, zoom calls, or recharging, a small, sheltered space is often just what we need. Add a comfortable seat, pillows, a plant, and a few favorite keepsakes to really make it your own.” —Angela Wheeler, interior designer and owner of Angela Wheeler Design
14. Repot your plant babies
“The beginning of the year is always a great time to filter your space through a new lens and welcome the year in a positive manner. I personally like to repot my houseplants each January. More than a few plants outgrow their existing containers over the course of a year, and somehow repotting always falls to the bottom of the chore list. In January, I’m often re-energized, and there’s a philosophical element, consistent with the new year mood, that lends itself to nurturing things that grow by giving them new life in a new home. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can elevate these plant friends by topping the soil with decorative moss and pebbles.” —Clara Jung, principal designer and founder of Banner Day Interiors
15. Wrap yourself in good energy
If you believe your home should reflect your vibe (and vice versa), then you’ll love this next idea, which literally allows you to wrap yourself up in good energy. Founded by product designer Samira Khoshnood, Superstitchous combines gorgeous, quality throws with meaningful patterns (think loquats, as shown above, to represent wealth or pomegranates to represent fertility and rebirth) for a multi-layered decor addition to your home.
16. (Re)create a morning routine
“I’ll be the first to say that I had absolutely no kind of routine in 2020, both with the pandemic and being a new mom. But I started 2021 with a morning routine that involves preparing my heart, body, and mind for the day by praying, journaling, and doing some sort of movement as well as reading a book with my son. It’s helped give my days some structure and a positive outset.” —Dr. Ijeoma Kola, lifestyle blogger and public health researcher
17. Add a pop of unexpected pattern
“I love to use wallpaper to jazz up the back of a bookshelf to transform it into a focal point or make a bold statement. It’s a project that can easily be done in an afternoon; you can even consider an easy-to-DIY option like peel-and-stick. Spoonflower and Etsy both have amazing patterns.” —Veronica Solomon, interior designer and owner of Casa Vilora Interiors
18. Save on your splurges
If you have big design energy on the brain this year, you’re in luck: There is a budget-friendly way to check all those projects off your list. Enter Honey, a web-integrated couponing extension that hunts for deals in the background while you do your regular online shopping. With it, you can score meaningful discounts on some of your favorite sites like Wayfair, Article, Target and more, which allows you to do more around your home with less money. New home office design scheme, here you come!
19. Makeshift a mini jungle
“While it’s tempting to place your plants all over the home, try bundling them together for a visual statement. It’s also good for the plants! When kept in groups, they create a microclimate that improves the humidity and health of all the plants nearby. Each plant gives off humidity through transpiration, which is the process by which plants absorb water through their roots and then give off water vapor through pores in their leaves. Clusters of plants will create very good humidity for each other and the surrounding air.” —Joyce Mast, Bloomscape’s Plant Mom
20. Bring zen to your bathroom or bedroom
“Try incorporating a calming practice into your nightly routine to help ease into sleep a bit smoother. To that end, outfit your bathroom or a corner of your bedroom with a meditation station, layering a linen bolster pillow, some live greenery, and an essential oil diffuser.” —Ariel Okin, interior designer and owner of Ariel Okin Interiors
21. Start from scratch (sort of)
“After all the holiday decor comes down, we all feel the itch to redecorate. The best way to refresh a room is to remove all the accessories for a clean slate and add one thing back at a time. This allows you to examine each piece and how it works in the room. Use this opportunity to try lamps from another room or switch out accessories. You’ll be surprised how much a new rug or one repurposed from another room can instantly update a space.” —Ariene C. Bethea, interior designer and owner of Dressing Rooms Interiors Studio